Typically a switch to a paleo diet provides relief from digestive discomfort. More times than not, the symptoms go away, and stay away. But often there are other underlying issues in addition to Leaky Gut Syndrome that need to be addressed.
First I would say, be sure you are setting realistic expectations. You need to allow your body time to change and heal. For some this will go quicker than for others. Be sure you are being honest with yourself about your level of compliance. You get out what you put in. Not that it has to be all or nothing right from the start, it doesn’t. Take your time, ease into it. But only when you remove the grains fully, are you going to start to feel big changes. Even one gluten exposure every ten days is enough to keep your gut in a damaged state. Consider this when you are deciding to incorporate “cheat meals” or not. If you do, try to make them gluten free.
That being said, I do know a handful of people who have only started experiencing digestive trouble after making the switch to the paleo diet. If this diet is supposed to help heal the gut, why do you feel crummy? This is where the fine-tuning comes in, and I would encourage you to do a little research/reading on your own. I’ll point some things I’ve come across that could be possible reasons, but I’m no means an expert in these areas.
First, sometimes symptoms that we typically associate with too much stomach acid are actually an indicator of low stomach acid. Counterintuitive, I know. I wrote about this a while back, check it out here: Feel The Burn.
There are some really helpful articles referenced there, written by Investigative Medicine practitioner Chris Kresser www.healthyskeptic.com, that may really shed some light and offer help. If you are experiencing heartburn, I highly recommend you read his series on the subject.
The primary treatment for low stomach acid is to start including some HCL (Hydrochloric Acid) or digestive enzymes (Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, recommends NOW Super Enzymes- available online and at local Vitamin Shops) into your daily regime. They are taken with every meal, gradually increasing the dosage until you reach the proper amount for you as explained here by Chris Kresser:
There is a reasonably reliable, “low-tech” method that can be performed at home to determine whether HCL supplementation will provide a benefit. To do this test, pick up some HCL capsules that contain pepsin. HCL should always be taken with pepsin because it is likely that if the stomach is not producing enough HCL, it is also not producing enough pepsin.
Note: HCL should never be taken (and this test should not be performed) by anyone who is also using any kind of anti-inflammatory medication such as corticosteroids (e.g. predisone), aspirin, Indocin, ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil, etc.) or other NSAIDS. These drugs can damage the GI lining that supplementary HCL might aggravate, increasing the risk of gastric bleeding or ulcer.
To minimize side effects, start with one 650 mg capsule of HCL w/pepsin in the early part of each meal. If there are no problems after two or three days, increase the dose to two capsules at the beginning of meals. Then after another two days increase to three capsules. Increase the dose gradually in this stepwise fashion until you feel a mild burning sensation. At that point, reduce the dosage to the previous number of capsules you were taking before you experienced burning and stay at that dosage. Over time you may find that you can continue to reduce the dosage, or you may also find that you may need to increase the dosage. In my experience, 3-4 capsules is the norm.
Unfortunately there is no real way to know how long you will need to continue using them. It is highly individual. It is my understanding that your body will adjust and not need them anymore. Eventually you would start to “feel the burn” (used in dosage determination) on your current dose and then reduce down gradually until you no longer need them. You need to listen to your body.
Another situation that I believe pertains to me, and many other women in particular is the adjustment to the increased consumption of animal protein. Pre-paleo I never ate enough protein. Most women I talk to are in the same boat. We ate lots of carbs, pasta, bagels, cereal, some fruits and veggies, and would maybe have a little meat on a sandwich at lunch or tossed in a salad or pasta. Not nearly enough. Proper stomach acid levels are vital to digestion, particularly when it comes to digesting protein. It is my theory that the increased protein of a paleo diet puts new stress on the digestive system and requires an adaptation period, which might include some digestive enzyme help.
Another piece of the puzzle involves ensuring that our tummies are filled with plenty of healthy gut flora. One way to do this is with probiotics. Stay tuned and we’ll dive into the world of probiotics and why they might be a good idea for you…
Mexican Mole My Way (from www.everydaypaleo.com)
1 red onion diced
6-8 garlic cloves, smashed with flat side of your knife blade
7 raw almonds, soaked in water for 30 minutes
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
The juice from 1 orange
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons dried oregano
A big pinch of saffron threads
A small pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon raw organic honey (optional)
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, diced into bite size chunks
In a soup pot, saute the onion and garlic in coconut oil for 5-7 or until the onions start to caramelize. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth and orange juice and bring to a simmer. Add all the dry spices and the honey, mix well and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sauce to a blender or food processor along with the almonds and blend until smooth. Add the chicken pieces to the pot, pour the mole sauce over and cook for 20 minutes. We ate ours with shredded cabbage, avocado chunks, lime wedges and some hot sauce along with a side of kale sauteed in grass fed butter. Serves 5.